In a recent conversation with a potential client who offers high-end insurance products to property owners, the sales manager expressed to me some concerns about their sales department. Their sales cycles are long. The company support is lacking. The underwriting requirements are complicated. The prospects are limited. Consequently, the frustrations were high in the entire company.
It seemed that everyone in the company had been working to their fullest capacity and that leadership was very happy with their progress in the marketplace. So why was the sales manager so frustrated? He was asking all the right questions, but he was just not seeing the fruit of his labor.
The company had recently, in the last two years, engaged a local marketing company who was in the sales manager’s words, ‘useless’. The problem? They didn’t provide them ideas or strategy. Any strategy they offered had to originate from the sales manager and his team. That is some weak sauce. A sales consultant, in my estimation, should be able to think outside the box and provide rock-solid strategy that thrusts the sales to the moon. Before hiring a sales consultant, make certain they have proven experience in moving the needle forward with sales efforts.
Using the example of, how was now a client, I would like to offer some ideas regarding your own sales strategy. If you do not have a sales strategy, maybe now is the time to build one.
Profiling your Prospect
To better understand their situation, I would like to give you a snapshot of what kind of company I was working with. That stuff does matter. This is a small, boutique agency with a finite market. Their total potential clients in their service area are just over 300. That’s right, only 300 prospects could be identified as needing and qualifying for their service. Small market, right? Their prospects are all property owners of multi-unit housing complexes.
Your prospect will most likely look different from the one I just described. Take a good look at who you would like to sell to before coming up with a strategy. If your current strategy does not describe who your potential customer is, you may have some holes in your strategy.
Think about who your prospect is. What do they sell? How big are they? How many employees do they have? Who are their customers? Profile your prospects by looking at your current client/customer list. Ask yourself what your market penetration is. Do you have room to grow?
Evaluating your Staffing Situation
Most sales problems come from a lack of communication within the organization itself. The sales department may originate sales, but it takes the entire company to close and serve customers. Unless your sales strategy includes departments such as underwriting, service, support, or administrative, your strategy will not be what it could be until you have every department on board. I have seen example after example of sales departments acting like lone rangers and excluding vital departments of the company. It is time to become humble and look at a company sales strategy holistically rather than in silos.
Start with a conversation with the various departments. Include them in your internal sales discussions. You may want to, for example, reach out to the head of the support department and invite them into the conversation. Practice active listening as you engage them. Ask them questions such as:
- How do you see your role in the acquisition of a new business for our company?
- If we initiate a new sales strategy, what would be the best way to discover if the new strategy will impact your department?
- Your department has specific knowledge that could help us as a sales department, could we tap into that through the use of social media or blogs?
As you ask these kinds of questions, you are valuing their contribution to the company. You are saying, you matter. When one department values another department’s company value, you will build internal allies instead of division. For whatever reason, many times departments do not value each other and are pegged against one another. This is not an internal competition. This strategy will help build bridges rather than divide. And, let’s face it, you need other departments if your sales goals are going to be reached.
Using social media
|Rethink the types of social media which are appropriate for the company or organization engaging in social media.|
Recently I was under contract with a local mental health provider in their sales and outreach department. They had also worked with a consultant before working with me. The advice they received from their old consultant was they needed to be on every single social media channel. Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, and Twitter to name a few. Let me ask you. What kind of picture can an organization who specializes in helping people struggling with mental illness post on Instagram? How can they invite their social media circle to engage with these kinds of social media without breaking confidentiality? Rethink the types of social media which are appropriate for the company or organization engaging in social media.
For the insurance company I described above, they were told the same thing by the consultants who were ‘helping’ them reach more prospects. They were told to get on Facebook and Twitter. In my estimation, these are not the tools they should be using. That is right, not every company should have a Facebook page. My suggestion was to engage with Linkedin. It turned out the sales manager had over 400 relevant connections on Linkedin. What a great place to start.
Here are a few suggestions to utilize a tool like Linkedin:
- View current contact profiles. For those who are active on LinkedIn, this will cause a notification in their profile, letting them know you have viewed their profile.
- Engage in conversation with your contacts. You may want to pass on an external blog post or article to individuals who would appreciate the information. In this way, you become the expert who is looking out for their best interests.
- Ask for other connections with prospective contacts.
- If your contacts are posting articles, comment on those articles and share them with your network. Keep in mind that your connections are notified when you share anything of theirs.
Tracking and Reporting your Outcomes
Investing in the strategies which provide the greatest return on your investment will be the key to success. In order to track the following items, use CRM tools such as Salesforce or Prosperworks. Example of items we will collect data on are:
- Number of interactions/conversations
- Number of blog readers/views
- Number of Linkedin shares
- Number of new additions to the email list
- Number of new targeted contacts in Linkedin
- Number of cards ( Thank you, Birthday, Job Anniversary ) sent
- Number of new quotes
- Number of new clients
As you build your sales strategy, make certain the entire company is on board with it. When you do, you will go far. These four categories are just a few check-in points of a sales strategy. Start with these as you move forward to sales greatness.